Planning a Scotland golf vacation? Top five travel tips for planning your trip

By Brandon Tucker, Managing Editor

A lot of pressure can come with planning a Scotland golf vacation, especially if its your once-in-a-lifetime trip to the home of golf.

Royal Dornoch Golf Club - Whinny Brae - hole 6
Some links like Royal Dornoch Golf Club deserve to be played twice.
Royal Dornoch Golf Club - Whinny Brae - hole 6St. Andrews Old CourseCruden Bay Golf Club in Scotland
If you go

And to complicate things, usually each person in your group has their own wish list. But there are a few things you should agree on when it comes to your links vacation, and here are five tips to help steer you in the right direction.

Play a couple Scotland links twice

The beauty of links golf in Scotland is that depending on the conditions of the turf and wind, the courses always play different from day-to-day. This is especially true on the incredibly complex Old Course at St. Andrews. One day, you wonder why a bunker is in its location when you'd never be within 100 yards. The next day, you find your ball right in the center of it.

You want to play 'em all, we know, but instead of checking as many courses off the list as you can, really get to learn a few intimately. It's tough remembering a golf course fully when you've only seen it once. Also, many clubs offer discounted P.M. replay or day rates.

Challenge some Scotland local club members to a match

If you have a group (preferably of eight or more) write the secretary of a few clubs at courses you'd like to play at and challenge them to a match. Scottish members enjoy few things more than beating the stuffing out of Yankee links golf virgins -- then drink some pints with them well into the night.

It's in the secretary's best interest to keep his members happy, so he will post a notice on the club bulletin board and see if there are any takers. Usually there are.

Don't drive all of Scotland on one trip

Play one links course in Scotland, and you want to play the rest. Groups over for the first time often slingshot their way all over the country, driving several hours a day in the car. It's windy, two-lane roads are tough to get around, and you should spend your time in the pubs and restaurants at night – not in the van. Pick a region or two with golf courses nearby and stick to them. East Lothian and the Kingdom of Fife are the best for this, or you can play three Open championship hosts, Turnberry, Royal Troon and historic Prestwick all within an hour of each other on the Ayshire coast.

Don't skip St. Andrews

Don't miss out on St. Andrews: St. Andrews is almost always busy and filled with tourists, and golf and lodging prices are seldom cheap. Before you cry "tourist trap," there's a reason everyone goes back again and again. It's the best golf town on the planet, everyone is in a good mood no matter the weather and the courses, even if you don't play the Old, are a hoot. Visit the Jigger Inn, Dunvegan Inn or check out the fourth floor of the Old Course Hotel overlooking the Road Hole and watch golfers get foiled by the Road Hole for hours.

Play at least one links club you've barely heard of

You're probably heading over to Scotland because you want to play the courses you've seen the pros master at the Open Championship. But they're the most expensive and toughest to get a tee time, and in some cases they're not even as fun as lesser-known, quirkier golf clubs. Fife is as good of a place to try this at historic clubs such as Crail, Leven Links or Scotscraig.

Another example is Cruden Bay north of Aberdeen. It's far too quirky to ever host any big tournament, but golf vacation packagers say the feedback from groups they send there is often better than any Open rota course.

Five bonus travel tips

• Self driving for the first time in the U.K.? Make sure you get insurance.

• Bring your own golf balls if you're coming from America. The heather swallows them up and balls aren't cheap overseas.

• The only place you should ever have a hat on indoors is the locker room.

• Consider playing match play or modified stableford matches on the links instead of pure stroke play - or you'll be out there all afternoon on a windy day.

• Never leave your rain gear in your hotel room, even if the forecast calls for sunshine!

Brandon TuckerBrandon Tucker, Managing Editor

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker.


Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Not just links...

    Doug wrote on: May 4, 2010

    Don't forget that there is more to Scottish golf than just the links.
    Admittedly - how it all began - is enough reason to come to Scotland, but it would be a shame to miss out on some truly amazing courses, simply because they are not by the sea.
    The King's at Gleneagles is a must - a masterpiece of design by a 5-time British Open Champion.

    Reply